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Facebook algorithm: Focus on active users, paid strategy

13 Apr
Organic Reach in Facebook

Many suspect that Facebook is now reducing the relevant organic reach of brands in favor of more relevant paid content.

Summary: Facebook’s algorithm improves the relevant content in a user’s news feed. Most Facebook users are not active, but passive in their news feed and therefore accept the ‘improved’ news feed experience, which includes organic ‘and’ paid content.

Facebook has filtered its news feed with a sorting algorithm known as EdgeRank. This algorithm collects every possible signal to determine the relevance of every post to every user.

Your Facebook news feed is stuffed with tons of content that is then filtered in an attempt to create a user experience of ‘relevant’ posts. Facebook curates this relevance for you with both organic and paid posts. Facebook users, who nearly never adjust or improve their news feed, receive this feed.

Many suspect that Facebook is now reducing the relevant organic reach of brands in favor of more relevant paid content. So if Facebook will not willfully deliver brands into the normal news feed, brands have to find ways of sharing channel content more efficiently with users and/or purchasing paid ads from Facebook.

Focus on active rather than passive users

Active users will still drive to a brand’s Facebook channel directly for customer service, but brands can help active discovery of content through search, hashtags, co-branding, links, etc. It’s impractical to ask passive users to adjust their Facebook settings (Most Recent compared with the default Top Stories) to improve news feed penetration for your brand. Passive users won’t.

There are things that your brand can do organically for active users. These users are attempting to curate and filter their Facebook experience. These are the users that search for your brand and arrive on your Facebook page for regular features, who search for hashtags and keywords, and who scan the Friend Feed – “Paul Morrison likes Dearborn Sausage Company’s photo.”

Engagement from active curators (along with quality content) combined with paid ads is the formula that Facebook claims improves reach.

We will continue to monitor the issue of diminishing organic reach (falling from 45-40 percent to 10-12 percent in early 2014). Our initial strategy was to refine organic efforts to maximize our limited opportunities in the news feed. But it is becoming painfully obvious that brands on Facebook will have to consider a paid strategy, as well.

Subsequent discussion is that the end-game for Facebook is to reduce organic reach to zero and become a full-paid platform (much like a newspaper, and we know how things worked out with that model ;).

Play nice with Facebook’s algorithm

Don’t hold your breath on Facebook detailing all the factors in its son-of-EdgeRank algorithm, but here are a few factors that we know about, how they work and possible organic solutions (things you can do before paying for boost posts and sponsor ads).

  • Affinity factor: When a post receives high engagement (likes, comments, shares), Facebook serves on more news feeds. If many users are interested, then other users are likely interested. Organic Solutions: Improve the quality of useful info and improve engagement.
  • Timing factor: Know when your audience is online, and publish posts at those times. Organic Solutions: Review Facebook Insights and modify posting times in your editorial calendar.
  • Story Bumping factor: Facebook’s EdgeRank is believed to produce ‘Time Decay.’ This means that the older a post got, the less likely it would appear on news feeds. So if a lot of people engaged with your post (Affinity), Facebook might bump it back up the news feed. Organic Solutions: Improve the quality of useful info and improve engagement.
  • Instagram Weight factor: Facebook weights new page features high including sharing of Instagram posts on Facebook (‘regramming’). Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012. Organic Solutions: ‘Regram’ content in your Facebook news feed.
  • Last Actor factor: Facebook will survey that past 50 engagements of a user, giving more weight to posts from pages the user has recently interacted with. Organic Solutions: Increase affirmation, comment threads with top users.
  • Links factor: Instead of embedding a links, try adding an image and putting the link in the status update section. Users will interact more with images. This produces a larger image versus the small image that Facebook displays with the embedded link. Organic Solutions: Add image and add link to image status.

Facebook best practices

What’s a brand to do next? Focus on these four things:

  1. Improve the quality of organic posts by understanding Facebook’s algorithm.
  2. Focus engagement efforts on active users rather than passive users.
  3. Prepare a limited paid strategy (Post Boost) and A/B test with organic posts.
  4. Cross promote on other social channels and especially channels that are already linked with Facebook (Instagram).

Kevin Cesarz is the Director of Social Engagement for Thread Marketing Group in Toledo. Ohio.

Content Marketing is like a mini publishing empire

18 Sep
Example of too much content

The biggest threat to content marketing is too much content marketing.

If your goals are to connect your ideas with your customers, and to connect in an authoritative and credible way, and to control your own publishing schedule, then you should create a mini publishing empire and realize those goals.

So now, marketers and businesses finally have the tools to publish to their heart’s content. Ready, Set, Go. Follow us. Friend Us. Connect with us. Content. Content. Content. Publish like crazy.

With all this content marketing freedom comes the biggest threat to your mini publishing empire. The biggest threat to content marketing is too much content marketing.

Careful, exploding content

Yes, content marketing has exploded. Actually, mentions of content marketing have exploded, much like an unattended pot of spaghetti sauce.

But if your mini publishing empire is to be successful and really leave its content mark, it will have to produce content that really helps people do their jobs. We’re talking about great ideas that both entertain, and inform. The kind of content that makes people say “I’ve just been subjected to multiple examples of muck, but this isn’t muck, why, I’m not just relieved, I’m delighted.”

You are battling not just to build a strong content mark but to separate yourself from the swill. The weak content will initially look a whole lot like the good stuff. All those snappy titles and headlines, come-hither subtitles, bright, shiny, candy-like buttons. Oh, you want to, you want to.

To bolster my case for you creating a mini publishing empire and leaving a content mark I will talk about the principals that make great content: the content user, authority, the length of the path and passion.

See you at the University of Toledo Internet Marketing Conference on October 1.

Kevin Cesarz is the Digital Strategy Leader for Communica and the former Web Editor of The Blade. His current restricted diet limits him to 1,200 mentions of content per day.

Streamlining vs. content quality: You know it when you see it

23 Jun

Content mills are like white walls

Content mills are like painting a wall. You might not be building a storytelling mural or adding creative branding with detail and context, but simply painting to cover the wall – one color, one coat.

Summary: Are content mills – companies that provide quick, SEO-rich content in volume to brands – the best solution for your “I need more content on my website,” woes? Probably not.

 

When we want to create the best content experience possible, just how much do we want to streamline our content production? 

I recently noticed a popular content marketing blog listing several text brokers, also known as content mills, to help brands with content creation.

Content mills and content mill brokers have grown in popularity with the rise of writers seeking self-employment and freelance opportunities as well as clients seeking web content to provide SEO critical mass and opportunities to crosslink. Content mills have sprung up like weeds clogging verdant online pastures.

Long term prospects for content mills

Fortunately the content mill model is destined to fail in the long term because Google, Bing and other search giants no longer reward truly bad content and low quality back links.

Winners going forward in content creation will be brands that create solid, unique content that real people want to read and share. A team of subject matter experts trumps a content mill’s pennies-on-the-dollar, freelance team. An engineer’s passion for their product and processes is shockingly obvious compared with a writer producing 300 words on the same topic.

In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart tried to explain “hard-core” pornography, or what is obscene, by saying, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . [b]ut I know it when I see it.”

People searching for an answer to their question online know good content when they discover it. Text brokers can fill a topic with the appropriate keywords and word count, but quickly streamline past readability. When content is custom, creative and in context, your reader/customer knows exactly what they’ve found.

White wall content

When your search uncovers mill-generated content that technically answers the question but without any passion, context, or additional detail, you’re disappointed and you continue your search.

Content mills are like painting a wall. You might not be building a storytelling mural or adding creative branding with detail and context, but simply painting to cover the wall – one color, one coat. This can be expertly done, and done quickly and efficiently, but it is simply a clean, white wall. A white wall of content is pleasant, but merely a placeholder for more inspired words.

Find more ideas under #contentmarketing on Twitter.

Respond in real-time, or don’t bother

6 Jun

A good response strategy carefully matches your creative and content to your influencers and your audience.

A good response strategy carefully matches your creative and content to your influencers and your audience.

Summary: Develop a digital response strategy by analyzing data and matching creative and content. This delivers more opportunities to use good content and makes paid and owned media better.

Real-time media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+) requires active response (real-time media = social media). Real-time media differentiates your brand from others. The right content (a status post and/or link to content), delivered at the right time and to the right customers can motivate strong emotional connections.

Real-time media is critical for communicating with customers and starting conversations. So pay attention. Be relevant in real-time and be prepared to respond. Building real-time Response Strategy means:

  • Analyzing data (Google Analytics and social media data)
  • Matching your creative and content to the news cycle
  • Matching your creative and content to influencers
  • Matching your creative and content to your audience

What response strategy delivers

When your brand is listening and learning with real-time (social media), you now have the detail you need to create better content for your digital channels that act as a resource or service. You can do good things like identify, curate, co-create and prep for triage.

  • Identify and inventory resources for the brand and thought leaders in industry.
  • Curate content for additional visibility (Storify, Pinterest, YouTube)
  • Develop opportunities to co-create content with influencers and customers
  • Response scenario plan (content triage): Build real-time channels and content sets for quickly responding to negative or disruptive situations.

What’s next?

The true value of paid and owned media is based on the impact of earned media. Show a pulse and respond decisively from your real-time (social) media. Earn value with your content or don’t bother.

Content Marketing equals strong intent

13 May

Search for a phrase like “small backpacking stove” you’re expressing strong intent. Demographics is a passive metric, but when a user takes an action – pay attention.

Content marketing attention and spending are up (43.9 billion – Characteristics Study by the Custom Content Council and ContentWise) because there is a fundamental shift in consumer behavior. Inbound marketing (and search) means that consumers control the pace and volume of information ‘before making a purchase decision.’ Content Marketing equals intent.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an alpaca farmer, a professional bowler, a small business owner or a second-year grad student, when you search for a phrase like “small backpacking stove” you’re expressing strong intent. Demographics is a passive metric, but when a user takes an action – pay attention.

Businesses and their marketing partners are now coming to grips with this fundamental shift in consumer behavior – inbound marketing. People control the information they receive and how they receive it. In outbound marketing, the company was in control. The playing field has changed. Content Marketing equals strong intent.

Blend Content Marketing tasks and documents

5 Feb
content marketing task list

(Library of Congress image)
Be crystal clear: SEO strategy should be integrated into your content marketing strategy so each content item supports your overall findability.

Now that you have 5 essential content marketing documents you can focus on 5 essential content marketing tasks. Content Marketing is an important part of sustaining the opportunity presented by consistent and unique thought leadership and related events. Link participants, content and conversation and ensure that each piece of content yields optimal results toward your business goals by following these steps.

Your expensive paid online marketing strategy (Google AdWords, retargeting, banner, display and old media buys) ultimately drives visitors to your online content marketing (your website and social media channels). When customers discover your online content does it answer their questions? Whether you have a paid online marketing strategy or not you need to practice content marketing.

  1. Recycle and format content: Be green and make the most of each content marketing effort. Plan related content and alternative presentations of content in advance. Use your Content Inventory to find existing information to highlight in your current publishing cycle. Don’t forget to link to related content and cross-promote each item to extend its usability. Create different pieces of content on the same topic –  alternative presentations – to make your content stand out. What in your Content Inventory can be created in a different format: PowerPoint to Blog Post; Case Study to Infographic; video to web page?
  2. It’s all about search – optimize: SEO strategy should be integrated into your content marketing strategy so each content item supports your overall findability. Review your Keyword Suggestions document, select one keyword phrase, and focus your headlines, copy and tags to gain maximum SEO value.
  3. Relevant calls-to-action and mobile-friendly: All that effort and writing to create great content – perfect. Now, finish the job. Review your Online Metrics and guide users to a specific call-to-action (tell them what you want them to do). Assume potential readers will read your content on many different devices, such as Macs, PCs, smartphones, and tablets. Review your Online Metrics, discover top landing pages – /services, /press, /productx – learn, replicate, simplify; make certain that contact info is in the page field, not just in the left-hand rail or the footer of the page.
  4. Publish your content: Promote your content to maximize its potential to reach interested consumers. Update and then publish content on a regular basis with your Content Calendar.
  5. Share your ideas: Why create it and then keep it to yourself?Encourage and enable readers to share your content across relevant real time platforms. Connect this content with your Event Participant Inventory; add social sharing buttons to your website; affirm other event participants; share their content – reciprocate.

Also: Essential Content Marketing documents

Essential Content Marketing documents

3 Feb
Content marketing document examples

(Library of Congress image)
You need to develop and maintain content marketing documents to track your content marketing efforts.

According to Google ZMOT, in 2011 people researched and digested 10.4 unique pieces of content (blog posts, web pages, video, Twitter posts, Facebook status posts, SlideShare presentations, etc.) before making a purchasing decision. Your online content is the voice of your company, each item is speaking to your customers and telling your story while you’re very busy growing your business. You need to develop and maintain content marketing documents to track your content marketing efforts.

Your paid online marketing strategy (Google AdWords, retargeting, banner, display and old media buys) is expensive and ultimately is supposed to drive visitors to your online content marketing (your website and social media channels). Whether you have a paid online marketing strategy or not you need to practice content marketing.

Here are examples of 5 essential content marketing documents to guide a successful content marketing strategy.

  1. Example of a content inventory

    Example of a content inventory

    Content Inventory: Use your Content Inventory to find existing information to highlight in your current publishing cycle. Reference your inventory to link to related content. Create different pieces of content on the same topic at the same time. Cross-promote each item to extend its usability. What in your Content Inventory can be created in a different format? (PowerPoint to Blog Post; Case Study to Infographic; video to web page).

  2. Example of keyword suggestions

    Example of keyword suggestions

    Keyword Suggestions: SEO strategy must integrated into your content marketing strategy so each content item supports your overall findability. Use Google AdWords to identify keywords related to your top products and services. Now use these keywords to build your branded message and deliver online via organic and paid content, as well as, email, real time media and your website. Use these terms to link your thought leadership to company events and the sales cycle. Select relevant keyword phrases and then focus landing pages to maximize SEO value.

  3. Example of online metrics

    Example of online metrics

    Online Metrics. Track page views, bounces, referrals, sources, mobile and more for your website. Understand successful (and less than successful content). Track metrics for your real time channels (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.), as well. Improve poorly performing content and landing pages and repeat successes.

  4. Example of content calendar

    Example of content calendar

    Content Calendar: Establish a publishing cycle and deliver new and repurposed content on a regular basis. Set a pattern of good, consistent and unique thought leadership on your Content Calendar. Be flexible enough to adjust to the news and sales cycle. Check Google Trends, Insights and your Online Metrics and prepare the content that web visitors are seeking.

  5. Example of participant inventory

    Example of participant inventory

    Event Participant Inventory: Build an online community by staging regular events and then maintaining connections with your participants. The Event Participant Inventory shows all digital touch points (websites, social media/real time channels, etc.) where your event attendees share their branded messages. The Event Participant Inventory provides opportunities to identify influencers through your company’s event, and to share and affirm branded keywords.

Create (and maintain) these content marketing documents and then follow your content marketing task list to connect with your customers.  And in case you were wondering why content marketing is so damn important – it is.